A visit with Former Husky Donald Jones

When thinking back to the suffocating Husky defenses of the early 1990s, it really was a case of pick your poison. They caused so much high-speed havoc. One of the most exciting players was pass-rushing terror Donald Jones - coming off the outside edge.

The real story of Donald Jones began simultaneously with the birth of the attack-style Husky defense. It was in November 1989, during a cold, damp night in Corvallis, Oregon, that Coach Don James and Defensive Coordinator Jim Lambright switched to the turbo-blitzing scheme. During that transformation, they moved fullback Donald Jones permanently to defense.

"I will never forget that game," said Jones recently to Dawgman.com. "It was probably the best game of my life. I just felt unstoppable. I had three sacks, but I could have had six - easily - but the other guys were beating me to the quarterback! My teammate Martin Harrison had four sacks in that game. That turf was so fast, I felt light on my feet and so explosive. The Beavers were like a JV team, and we just dominated them."

Washington's era of dominance began that night, as the Huskies led 37-0 at halftime and 51-14 when it was all over.

"I remember that the offensive lineman I kept beating was so mad that he was in tears," said Jones. "I had never seen a player react like that before in a game. Then after the game was over, several of the Beaver players came up to me to congratulate me and they told me that I looked like Junior Seau. I had been watching film of Seau all week, because the previous Saturday he had torn them up. I emulated his spin move, and had a lot of success that night against the Beavers.

"We had gone to the attack-style defense that night," he added. "It really changed the way the game was played. Jim Lambright revolutionized the way college football was played."

Two years later in 1991, everything fell perfectly into place as the Huskies went 12-0 and won the national championship. Jones was asked his sentiments of that season.

"That '91 season - I have never been on a team that was so incredibly close as we were that year," he said. "It was the camaraderie on that team that I will never forget. There wasn't any jealousy on that team or anything. If Steve Emtman got all the accolades, it was like me getting them, because it was like seeing your own brother getting it. Or Dave Hoffmann, with all the accolades that he got, you were happy for him, because it was like your own brother getting honored. We were all together with one goal in mind - to win every game.

"And it was a deeply religious team - from Don James on down," he said. "Right before kickoff, the whole team prayed together before games in the showers, because that was the one place where there was enough room. It actually started off with me and Greg (Lewis) and Dave Hoffmann, praying before games. Then suddenly more and more teammates joined us. We were joined by guys like Mark Brunell - that guy was a serious Christian. He really walked it and lived it. Then before one game, I started to lead the prayer, and I looked up and realized that the whole team was in there together! There was nothing more powerful and beautiful than to realize that we were all in there praying together in unity and about to take to the field and go to war together. It was a special kind of bond."

Jones now lives in Southern California, and is coaching under former Husky Charles Mincy at Inglewood High School. Now 38 years old, Jones was asked what his time at Washington means to him in retrospect.

"I really appreciate it more the older I get," he said. "I remember being in the locker room at the Rose Bowl after we beat Michigan to win the national championship. (Fellow linebacker) James Clifford came up to me and said, `Donald! If you don't start smiling, I'm going to hit you in the face!', because it hadn't sunk in yet, exactly what we had just accomplished. But now when I look back and wear my (championship) ring, I realize that I was a part of something very special. I'm just thankful to God that I got the chance, because very few people get the opportunity to be part of a championship team at that high of a level. It is something that I can tell my kids and my grandkids, and my players. I can point to that experience as an example as to what unity and hard work can accomplish. These days, as a high school football coach and in business, I always apply lessons I learned back then. I think about those lessons all the time."

Jones concluded his thoughts by discussing his former teammate Jaime Fields, who was killed in a hit-and-run collision in 1999.

"You know, I subscribe to Dawgman.com and I always look forward to your articles," he said. ìI was reading one recently, and when I got to the end of it, I saw the ad for your book with the picture of Jaime. My heart dropped. My heart melted. I still think a lot about Jaime Fields. The kind of person he was. There were so many special guys on that team - like Jaime Fields, Mark Brunell and Dave Hoffmann. Those are high-quality people worthy of reading about. I want to pass on those qualities to my kids that I coach at Inglewood High School, as well as to my son. I have seen from your articles that you and Dave Hoffmann are friends. And I laugh in reading his quotes, because he's still the same old Dave! We were so close, and that team was so close."

Then he added, "Man, I wouldn't trade that time of my life for anything."
Derek Johnson can be reached at derekjohnsonbooks@comcast.net

His website is www.derekjohnsonbooks.com

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